Iran Update, January 24, 2024
Iran Update, January 24, 2024
Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, and Brian Carter
Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET
The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.
Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
- Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 215th Artillery Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) directed airstrikes to kill many Palestinian fighters in the northern Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours.
- Central Gaza Strip: Israeli forces destroyed an underground tunnel route 1.5 kilometers from the Israeli border that connects the northern and southern Gaza Strip.
- Southern Gaza Strip: Palestinian fighters defended against Israeli clearing operations in western, southern, and eastern Khan Younis on January 24.
- Political Negotiations: Israel and Hamas continued indirect talks regarding a ceasefire on January 24. Hamas demanded a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
- West Bank: CTP-ISW did not record any clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militias in the West Bank on January 24.
- Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on January 24.
- Iraq: The United States conducted airstrikes targeting three Kataib Hezbollah facilities in Iraq in al Qaim, Anbar Province, and Jurf al Sakhr, Babil Province, on January 23.
- Yemen: Houthi fighters fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting two US-flagged ships transporting US military supplies through the Gulf of Aden on January 24.
- Iran: Iranian officials discussed the Israel-Hamas war with senior Russian officials on January 24.
Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:
- Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
- Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 215th Artillery Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) directed airstrikes to kill many Palestinian fighters in the northern Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours. CTP-ISW previously reported that Hamas fighters are already reinfiltrating areas that Israeli forces cleared in the northern Gaza Strip, which will facilitate Hamas’ reconstitution. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) military wing published footage on January 24 of its fighters firing mortars targeting an Israeli supply line east of Jabalia. The militia claimed that it targeted an Israeli supply line east of Jabalia in a combined operation with Hamas fighters on January 22.
Israeli forces destroyed an underground tunnel route 1.5 kilometers from the Israeli border that connects the northern and southern Gaza Strip. The IDF 646th Paratrooper Brigade (assigned to the 99th Division) and engineers destroyed the tunnel system last week during operations north of Bureij, in the central Gaza Strip. Israeli forces located anti-aircraft missiles, rocket launchers, warheads, and equipment for rocket production and launch systems in the tunnels. The 646th Brigade previously located an underground tunnel route beneath Salah al Din Road on January 16, which the IDF said Palestinian militias used to move fighters between the northern and southern Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in the Central Governorate of the Gaza Strip. The Yiftach Brigade (assigned to the 99th Division) fired at an armed Palestinian fighter who was observing them on January 24. Palestinian militias did not claim any attacks targeting Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip on January 24.
Palestinian fighters defended against Israeli clearing operations in western, southern, and eastern Khan Younis on January 24. Hamas and other Palestinian militias claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces in western Khan Younis where Palestinian militias are continuing to execute a deliberate defense against Israeli offensive operations. Hamas claimed that its fighters detonated explosives that Israeli forces had planted to demolish a building in western Khan Younis. The group conducted a similar attack on January 22 that killed 21 Israeli soldiers in the central Gaza Strip. Hamas and PIJ also conducted a combined attack that targeted an Israeli tank with an anti-tank RPG in western Khan Younis on January 24. Hamas mortared Israeli forces advancing east of al Fukhari in southern Khan Younis. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) reported that its fighters clashed with Israeli forces as they advanced in western, southern, and eastern Khan Younis.
The IDF reported on January 24 that the 98th Division continued to conduct clearing operations in western Khan Younis. Israeli forces are “increasing the pressure” on Hamas and targeting Hamas squads with sniper fire, tanks, and airstrikes. Israeli forces operating in the center of the Khan Younis refugee camp encountered many Palestinian fighters and raided Hamas facilities in the area.
The top US Middle East mediator, National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, arrived in Qatar on January 24 for negotiations over the release of Hamas-held hostages in the Gaza Strip. McGurk will discuss a new hostage deal with Qatari officials. The discussions will also focus on humanitarian assistance, IDF operations, and the protection of civilian life in the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Hamas continued indirect talks regarding a ceasefire on January 24. Israeli media reported on January 24 that Hamas suspended negotiations for a hostage deal with Israel, according to two sources privy to the details of the negotiations. The sources said that Hamas demanded a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
PIJ’s military wing claimed that its fighters fired rockets from the Gaza Strip targeting nearby Israeli towns on January 24.
Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:
- Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there
CTP-ISW did not record any clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militias in the West Bank on January 24. Israeli forces detained seven wanted individuals across the West Bank. Israeli forces also destroyed the home of a Hamas fighter who killed four Israelis in an Israeli settlement south of Nablus in June 2023.
Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights
Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:
- Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
- Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel
Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on January 24. Israeli forces struck multiple Lebanese Hezbollah military targets in southern Lebanon on the same day.
Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.
Iran and Axis of Resistance
Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:
- Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
- Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts
The United States conducted airstrikes targeting three Kataib Hezbollah facilities in Iraq in al Qaim, Anbar Province, and Jurf al Sakhr, Babil Province, on January 23. The United States conducted the strikes in response to a Kataib Hezbollah ballistic missile and rocket attack targeting Ain al Assad Airbase on January 20 that left four US personnel with traumatic brain injuries and injured at least one Iraqi Security Forces member. The US strikes targeted the 45th Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Brigade’s 3rd Regiment in al Qaim and the 46th and 47th PMF brigades in Jurf al Sakhr. US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Kataib Hezbollah commands and mans the 45th, 46th, and 47th PMF Brigades. US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Kataib Hezbollah controls the al Qaim border crossing between Iraq and Syria. The group also committed acts of sectarian cleansing in Jurf al Sakhr, which it now controls. Kataib Hezbollah does not allow the Iraqi government access to Jurf al Sakhr, which is notable because it means that the Iraqi government does not have control over the town. US Central Command reported that the strikes targeted KH's “headquarters, storage and training locations for rocket, missile, and one-way attack UAV capabilities.” Iran uses the al Qaim-Albu Kamal border crossing to transport air defense equipment, precision-guided munitions, and other weapons into Syria.
Numerous Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, such as Kataib Hezbollah, Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba (HHN), and the Badr Organization reiterated their demand for the removal of US forces from Iraq following the US strikes. HHN repeated the claim that US self-defense strikes targeting Iranian-backed Iraqi militia facilities "violate” Iraqi sovereignty. Iranian-backed Iraqi militias conduct attacks targeting US forces, which provoke US self-defense strikes. The militias then incorrectly characterize these self-defense strikes as "violations” of Iraqi sovereignty to pressure the Iraqi federal government to order the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. The United States reserves the right to protect its forces in Iraq, which are deployed at the invitation of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS.
Iranian-backed political factions also condemned the US strikes. State of Law Coalition member Turki al Utbi stated on January 24 that the Shia Coordination Framework—a loose coalition of Iranian-backed political parties—will meet within 72 hours to discuss efforts to pressure the Iraqi federal government to order the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. The State of Law Coalition is headed by former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and is part of the Shia Coordination Framework. Interim Parliament Speaker Mohsen al Mandalawi also condemned the US strikes and separately announced that Parliament will hold a session on January 27. Mandalawi is a member of the Shia Coordination Framework and the Independent Iraq Alliance. It is unclear whether the parliament session will focus on the US strikes or another topic, such as the parliament speaker vote.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iran-backed Iraqi militias—claimed responsibility for three strikes on US positions in Iraq and Syria on January 24. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq attacked US forces at Erbil International Airport and Ain al Assad Base in Iraq. The group attacked US forces in Syria at Conoco Mission Support Site in Deir ez Zor Province.
Houthi fighters fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting two US-flagged ships transporting US military supplies through the Gulf of Aden on January 24. US Central Command reported that the USS Gravely intercepted two of the anti-ship ballistic missiles and one anti-ship ballistic missile landed in the sea. The two ships operated by Maersk’s US subsidiary Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) also reported seeing explosions near the vessels, according to a statement from Maersk. MLL provides transportation for the US government and its vessels are enrolled in the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA). These programs partner US-flagged merchant vessels with the US Department of Defense (DOD) to support DOD operations in emergency situations. MLL announced that it will suspend transits through the Red Sea until further notice due to increased risk to its vessels.
CENTCOM conducted airstrikes targeting two anti-ship ballistic missiles in Houthi-controlled territory of Yemen on January 23. CENTCOM reported that the missiles were aimed at the southern Red Sea, were prepared to fire, and posed an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy in the region.
Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed the Israel-Hamas war in separate meetings with the French, Algerian, and Malaysian foreign ministers in New York on January 23.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi spoke about the Israel-Hamas war and Turkish-Iranian relations at a press conference prior to departing for Turkey on January 24. Raisi called the Israel-Hamas war one of the most important regional issues. Raisi condemned US support for Israel. Raisi reiterated Iranian calls for increased isolation of Israel. Raisi will meet with senior Turkish leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during his visit to Ankara beginning January 24.
Supreme Leader Military Affairs Adviser Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi discussed the Israel-Hamas war with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Iran delegation head Vincent Cassard in Tehran on January 24. Safavi called for the ICRC to play a role in bringing about a ceasefire and increasing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. Safavi served as the IRGC commander from 1997 to 2007 before becoming the Supreme Leader’s military affairs adviser. 
Iranian officials discussed the Israel-Hamas war with senior Russian officials on January 24. The Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian called for an immediate end to Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip during a meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Pastrushev in Moscow. A senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official and former Persian Gulf Affairs director general also called for an immediate ceasefire during a meeting with the Russian President's Special Representative for Syrian Affairs in Astana, Kazakhstan. Iranian and Russian officials have engaged in political coordination vis-a-vis the Israel-Hamas war since at least October 26, as CTP-ISW previously reported.
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